Local Anesthetics as Antimicrobial Agents: A Review

I-Flow Corporation, Lake Forest, CA, USA.
Surgical Infections (Impact Factor: 1.45). 05/2008; 9(2):205-13. DOI: 10.1089/sur.2007.036
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since the introduction of cocaine in 1884, local anesthetics have been used as a mainstay of pain management. However, numerous studies over the past several decades have elucidated the supplemental role of local anesthetics as antimicrobial agents. In addition to their anesthetic properties, medications such as bupivacaine and lidocaine have been shown to exhibit bacteriostatic, bactericidal, fungistatic, and fungicidal properties against a wide spectrum of microorganisms.
A comprehensive literature search was conducted using MEDLINE 1950-present for in vitro and in vivo studies pertaining to the antimicrobial activity of various local anesthetics on a broad range of bacterial and fungal pathogens. Studies testing the effect on microbial growth inhibition of local anesthetics alone and in combination with other agents, such as preservatives and other medications, as well as the effect of conditions such as concentration and temperature, were included for review. Outcome measures included colony counts, area-under-the-curve and time-kill curve calculations, minimum inhibitory concentrations, and post-antibiotic effect.
Evidence suggests that local anesthetics as a class possess inherent antimicrobial properties against a wide spectrum of human pathogens. Multiple local anesthetics at concentrations typically used in the clinical setting (e.g., bupivacaine 0.125%-0.75%; lidocaine 1%-3%) inhibit the growth of numerous bacteria and fungi under various conditions. Different local anesthetics showed various degrees of antimicrobial capacity; bupivacaine and lidocaine, for example, inhibit growth to a significantly greater extent than does ropivacaine. Greater concentrations, longer exposure, and higher temperature each correlate with a proportional increase in microbial growth inhibition. Addition of other agents to the anesthetic solutions, such as preservatives, opioids, or intravenous anesthetics such as propofol, modify the antimicrobial activity via either synergistic or antagonistic action. Limited studies attribute the mechanism of action of antimicrobial activity of local anesthetics to a disruption of microbial cell membrane permeability, leading to leakage of cellular components and subsequent cell lysis.
Local anesthetics not only serve as agents for pain control, but possess antimicrobial activity as well. In such a capacity, local anesthetics can be considered as an adjunct to traditional antimicrobial use in the clinical or laboratory setting. Additionally, caution should be exercised when administering local anesthetics prior to diagnostic procedures in which culture specimens are to be obtained, as the antimicrobial activity of the local anesthetic could lead to false-negative results or suboptimal culture yields.

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